Crisis Averted: Inside the life of a young crisis hotline worker


Editor's note: This Colorado Voices story was produced by DU journalism students as part of an ongoing partnership between Rocky Mountain PBS' Colorado Voices series and the University of Denver.

From midnight to 6 a.m., Hridith Sudev is not sleeping. Rather, he’s talking on the phone with people he has never met.

“How can I help you tonight?” he asks a stranger. After many months of answering the phone like this, he knows the person on the other end of the call may be having the worst morning of their life. Yet, instead of bracing for impact, Sudev welcomes these calls with the same warmth of the Chai tea he sips.

Sudev is Hotline Advocate with The Blue Bench, a Denver-based organization that specializes in assisting survivors of gender-based violence and sexual assault. When the pandemic hit and his classes at the University of Denver abruptly shifted online, Sudev searched for ways to help his community. 

After finding The Blue Bench through a volunteer mailing list, he signed up for the graveyard shift on the organization’s 24/7 hotline, where people experiencing traumatic events can receive counseling and resources. 

The Blue Bench is a Denver-based organization dedicated to assisting survivors of gender-based violence and sexual assault. Photo Courtesy of The Blue Bench. 

Manning the Blue Bench’s hotline is no small feat. All staffers are volunteers who must complete a rigorous, 40-hour training before answering calls. In fact, most hotline workers across all concentrations – suicide, addiction, eating disorders, LGBTQ+ – are volunteers

The amount of calls have surged since the start of the pandemic. This is true for the Blue Bench’s hotline as well, since many victims of domestic violence are now locked into unsafe homes. 

While he helps others navigate their own traumas, Sudev often finds his own mental health failing as well. However, one important thing keeps him going: he is a survivor himself.

Resting on one of the blue benches-- commissioned by The Blue Bench-- outside of his university’s health and counseling center, Sudev explained his pain growing up in the Middle East. As a young boy, he felt hopeless after experiencing gender-based violence. Due to the “especially patriarchal” conditions in the area, he as a cisgender male felt he could never talk about and heal from his experiences. 

“In the Middle East, the physical and mental health scaffolding available to survivors was almost...nothing,” he reflected. “I wish I had someone to help me.” 

Oman, where Sudev primarily grew up, has no laws preventing gender-based violence of any kind. Therefore, it is almost impossible to talk about in the country, Sudev noted.

While most assaults and cases of gender-based violence are perpetrated against women, cases against male victims are still prevalent. One study from The University of Northern Iowa found “male sexual assault victims may experience more stigma than female sexual assault victims,” and noted that reporting for all genders is dismal due to general societal stigma. 

Sudev laughs on one of the physical blue benches outside of his university’s Health and Counseling Center. The organization has benches around the Denver metro area with information on how to access care and the hotline. 


Another Rise Learning Network report that studied male survivors in the Middle East reported countless barriers to accessing care for victims of gender-based violence, mainly boiling down to low reporting, inaccessible services and lack of awareness. 

While his experience occurred in the Middle East, Sudev mentioned so many of the same problems persist here in America: “There is so much more work to be done.” 

“Even though we have a more rounded understanding of gender and…we have more access to healthy scaffolding for survivors, we still have this gargantuan social stigma around gender violence,” said Sudev. 

After years of internal confusion and sorrow, Sudev eventually found people who helped him heal. Some were even fictional. As an avid Marvel fan, Sudev took inspiration from heroes who decorate his bedroom wall, like Black Panther and Captain America. 

Posters from various Marvel superhero movies hang on Sudev’s bedroom walls. 

“I would have this fantasy in my little middle school brain of how, one day, Iron Man’s gonna swoop down from the sky and save me, and I would go back home and… feel safe,” Sudev said. 

This support he received from real and fictional people helped crystallize his mission––to be a helpful person and everyday superhero for someone else. Simply talking on the phone to someone in pain is Sudev’s greatest superpower. 

“How precious it is to be there for someone when they’re struggling, and if I can do that for someone, then that’s the greatest honor I can ever have in my lifetime,” Sudev said. 

Now, Sudev is both on the cusp of graduating and in the thick of applying to medical schools. In this next step in life, he wants to help people mentally and physically as a doctor and will continue being an advocate for survivors. 

Even in a heartbreaking field, Sudev hopes to leave the strangers he meets with smiles. 

“In my culture, there’s this thing about smiles,” said Sudev, a small grin creeping across his face. “We live, we die, we leave nothing behind. The only thing that we could possibly leave behind is the smiles that we put on people’s faces, and I want to leave behind as many smiles as possible.” 

Sudev smiles with his mother in Oman. 


Refer to the resources below if you or anyone you know is suffering from gender-based violence, sexual assault, or thoughts of suicide.

  • The Blue Bench (Denver-based): 303-322-7273
  • National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-SAFE
  • National Sexual Assault Hotline: 1-800-656-4673
  • LGBT National Hotline: 1-888-843-4564
  • The Trevor Project (LGBT suicide hotline): 866-488-7386
  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 800-273-8255


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